What exactly is direct marketing? How does it differ from any other kind of marketing—and why does that matter to your business?
What makes marketing “direct” is that it goes directly to your audience. There’s no “middleman” involved in the process. It’s you (as a business or organization) talking directly to—you could even say having a conversation with—your customer or prospect. However, unless you get some kind of response from your audience, it’s kind of a one-way conversation (or a monologue). That’s why people who are sticklers for accuracy often talk about direct-response marketing.
You’re not running an ad in a magazine or newspaper. You’re not broadcasting a message on radio or television. And you’re not sending people to a third-party store to purchase your goods or services. You’re inviting them to respond directly to you.
It’s actually kind of a personal means of marketing what you have to offer. That sometimes surprises people because direct response marketing is often associated with mass marketing. But they’re not the same thing. A direct mailing, for instance, can indeed go out to a large audience (i.e. a large mailing list). But the message and the response are directly between the sender and the receiver. And it’s why successful direct marketing never loses sight of its personal nature.
Here are three ways that successful direct marketers (whether they’re using direct mail, email, or some other platform) keep things personal.
- Knowing the Audience: Successful direct marketers don’t simply scatter their message to the winds and hope that somebody responds. They know who their audience is. That involves a lot more than simply knowing if this audience has enough money to buy what they’re selling. They select their audience (their list, if we’re talking about direct mail or email marketing) based on interest, need, location, past activity, and more. They don’t try to sell cat food to bird owners. They “talk” to people who are likely to be interested in what they have to say. One way to do that is to create what’s known as a persona for your audience. Here’s a look at how you can do that.
- Tailoring the Message: Smart direct marketers don’t stop with getting the right list. They figure out what the people on that list have on their mind. They know their issues. They know what their problems are. They know what keeps them from making a buying decision—and they create their content to address those things. If you’ve ever gotten a piece of mail that accurately describes a problem you have or identifies a frustration you face (and makes you think: That’s exactly how I feel!) you’ve been on the receiving end of something sent out by someone who understands good direct mail.
- Soliciting a Specific Response: Another distinction of good direct marketing experts is that they don’t simply talk to you: They invite you to respond. They may not try to make a sale (or they might), but they want to engage you in the conversation. They’ll use a clear call-to-action (CTA) that might invite you to, “Call or click for more information” or “Go to our website for a quick and informative video.” They involve you in the process. Here’s a helpful post that expands on the idea of how to engage your target market.
What do your marketing efforts look like? Are you direct? Are you talking to a well-defined audience that you know? Is your message tailored to their interests and needs? Are you engaging them in the process of solving their problems—even if they’re not ready to make a purchasing decision right away? If you are, you’re a direct marketer.